By Saurav Sen
“What’s the worst thing about being a match manager with Kensington?”, I am often asked. I can never think of anything.
Let’s start with Tuesday afternoons, when the team sheet normally gets sent out. It has an air of certainty about it. Everyone of course replies almost immediately. There are no last minute drop-outs. Lifts are never asked for at the eleventh hour. Everyone consults the map and/or enters the right address in their sat-navs. Come hell, high water, traffic on the M4 or extended breakfasts, the entire team arrives at least 30 minutes ahead of the start time.
Our warm-up routine would make Olympic gymnasts weep. No one ever has a newly-acquired muscle injury that happened because they slept awkwardly. The combined vapours of Deep Heat and Tiger Balm that would give the dressing room a spa-like air are unknown. Paracetamol is never needed. Cobras are always put in the fridge. And then, ready or not (more often the latter), comes the toss, with the attached mystery of never knowing whether we are playing a timed game or 40 overs.
The important thing about the toss is the taking part. Win, and you can be sure of the level of support and expressions of confidence to expect from the team for your decision, whether it is to bat or bowl. Lose, and you can count on San never to ramp up the pressure with a nonchalantly menacing “Oh well, better win the match then.”
Managing the match itself is a masterclass in transcendence. Batsmen are unfailingly happy with their position in the order, padded up when they need to be (and boy, do they need to be!), and resolute in their intent to play responsibly – I’m trying (not) to recall the last batting collapse. Bowlers rarely bowl down the leg side. The match manager never miscalculates the overs bowled or misjudges bowling changes. Fielders instinctively know their positions and never all flock to the slips. They will take every catch and there have never been any recorded overthrows. There is also no constant stream of tactical advice from the slip cordon, or deep backward square leg, or even the scorer.
Post-match, scorecards are miraculously discovered to be accurately tallied in the approved colour scheme, and match fees are paid even before being asked for, all of which makes the experience of chilled Cobras an even more chilled experience. And of course, match reports are an absolute joy to write, especially match reports for the match managers who have not written their own match reports!
So, what is the worst thing about being a KCC match manager? I think this is a ridiculous question. After all, a true KCC match really manages itself. (Please may I bat up the order now?)